Adoptive parents, adoptees, and the adoption community in general often face many stereotypes. While not always inherently cruel, many of them perpetuate some kind of falsehood about adoption, and that can lead to harmful misconceptions. Here are 10 common stereotypes about adoption that you can be on the lookout for:
Myth: Adopting an older child or teenager is less satisfying than a baby.
Some parents have a deep desire to raise a child from infancy, and that is completely valid. However, that doesn’t mean that parenting a child from a later age is invalid. You can still bond with and love a child without having changed their diapers. Not to mention, babies are not the only ones in need of a family. In particular, teenagers tend to be overlooked because of the fact that they are nearing the point where they would age out of the system. A common sentiment I have seen is that “They’re going to age out soon anyway. Why do they need to be adopted only to be independent shortly after?” But it isn’t about the legality of the situation. That teenager would probably love to feel loved and belong somewhere before they get sent off into the world.
Myth: The birth parents did not want the child.
While there are unfortunate cases of this, there are also many other possible reasons that a birth parent may place their child for adoption. They might not have been ready for the challenges of parenthood, they might not have had the resources to properly care for a child, or they might have passed away. There are a number of circumstances, oftentimes out of the birth parent’s control, that could contribute to their decision to place a child for adoption. Either way though, others should keep in mind that it’s not really any of their business. If the birth parent wants to share their story, then great, but if they don’t then it is rude to push about it. You can learn more about birth mother stigmas and stereotypes on Adoption.com.
Myth: All adoptions are from other countries/international.
As an international adoptee, I know that my family stuck out a bit. It was easy to look at my mom, my sister, and me and come to the conclusion of adoption (although a few still try to identify our father because they believe we are biracial). However, not all adoptive families will experience this. There are also domestic and foster care adoptions, which are usually more local. A family may decide to adopt from a family of a different race, or they may adopt from someone of the same race. Every adoption story is different.
Myth: Adoptive parents are heroes.
To call adoptive parents heroes is an exaggeration at best and arrogant at worst. The term “savior complex” is actually used in the adoption community to describe someone who thinks that by adopting a child (usually from another country) they are swooping in to save the day. It can be easy for new adoptive parents to slip into this mindset; however, it is important to avoid the savior complex. Adoptive parents are not heroes, they are simply people who wish to adopt just like every other adoptive parent.
Myth: Adoptive parents must have struggled with fertility issues.
While this is a valid reason for choosing adoption, it is not always the reason. Some parents want children, but don’t want to go through pregnancy and childbirth. Some parents are single but still want to have children. Some parents just feel that adoption is a life calling for them. This stereotype also tends to look over adoptions that happened within families or through foster care. Just like there is a myriad of reasons why a birth parent may choose to place their child for adoption, there are also plenty of reasons why an adoptive parent would choose adoption. Furthermore, I think this stereotype in particular paints the picture that adoption is the second best option for people who want to become parents. But, in the words of my mother, “It’s not
second best. It’s first best.”
Myth: All adoptees will miss their biological parents.
For some of us, we were adopted at such a young enough age that we don’t have any memories of our birth parents. This leaves us feeling distant from them– not necessarily in a cold way, it’s just hard to deeply miss someone whom you have never met. We wonder about them a lot, and we might have questions, but sometimes the media can push the whole little-orphan-Annie-wistfully-staring-out-the-window narrative too often. I think the ultimate objective in this one is to just be understanding and not assume how a person feels about their past. Whether they express feelings of longing for their birth parents or not, it is not another person’s place to assume.
Myth: Adoption always involves strangers.
Children being adopted by other families is probably the most obvious, well-known kind of adoption. Very often, movies and shows about adoption are aimed toward the familiar narrative of someone not knowing anything about their birth parents and going on a journey of self-discovery. However, adoptions can and often do happen between family members and/or close friends, depending on the circumstances. Stepparents can choose to legally adopt their stepchildren. If a parent is unable to care for their child, but another family member (such as an aunt or an uncle) can, then adoption can happen there. Godmothers and godfathers are also an option–parents can name specific friends or other people to be the legal guardians of their kids, should anything happen to them. The journey through adoption has more roads than you might think.
Myth: The bond isn’t as strong.
Just because a child doesn’t share genetics with a parent, it doesn’t mean that they are any less of a parent. Recently, I have noticed that this sentiment is somewhat less prevalent than it has been in the past; however, it is still worth talking about. Sometimes people worry that because a child is not biologically theirs, the child will not love and/or bond with them as much. This is a false statement. They may bond a little bit differently than a biological child might, and you will have to open yourself to different experiences and thought processes. But different doesn’t mean weaker or bad. Love is an action and emotion that is meant to be seen and felt beyond the bonds of DNA.
Myth: Being adopted is an insult.
I have had this used against me, though I could never understand why. Oh no, your mom went through a dozen legal processes to make sure she was fit to be a parent, did hours of paperwork, and paid thousands to travel to meet you? Wow, I can really feel the insult. In all seriousness though, every time I hear someone use “you were adopted” as a way to get back at someone, I cringe on the inside. It just perpetuates the idea that adoption is the second-best alternative, and that adoptees are less loved than biological children. It’s just not true.